Wednesday, October 08, 2008

How To Recession-Proof Your Wardrobe

Photo from California Closet

If there are two things that I love talking about, it's clothes and money.  All we are hearing on the news lately is how our economy is in the toilet.  We could be heading for a recession.  The stock market is lower than it's been in years. People are losing their retirement dollars in savings and 401ks.  Depressing stuff, isn't it?

Contrary to popular belief, I don't think the solution in our personal economies is to spend more. I couldn't care less about the country's economy if my own family's economy is wrecked. The solution for the country's economy may be to spend more, but for your economy the solution is to spend less until you get yourself into a better situation.  

Credit and debt has become so ingrained in out culture that we don't think twice about having debt and using credit.  We are not accustomed to hearing that we can't afford something.  If we can manage the payments, then we can afford it.  Just like the economy's bubble was busted, our personal expectations about our spending power will be as well.  This situation is a wakeup call for so many people.  Everyone is blaming the government and mortgage companies for this crisis and it's true that they were irresponsible with lending.  I was a mortgage broker for three years and I know very well how you could get a mortgage with terrible credit, bankruptcy, collections and downright despicable financial behavior.  However, just because it was allowed doesn't completely absolve each person for their irresponsibility.

Granted, marketing, ease of credit and general discontentment leads the average American family to constantly seek more, more, and more.  Too much is never enough in this society. Why else would minimalism be a radical choice of decorating or living?  It goes against the grain of our culture.  If you haven't done it already, now the difficult choices need to be made to balance your personal economy.  

One of the ways that investment, planning and common sense pays off is in our closets.  Over the years, I have invested in my wardrobe slowly.  I've also weeded out lesser quality and inappropriate things for my lifestyle.  A big accomplishment was to stop buying what I didn't need or wouldn't wear. Many of the ideas mentioned here are refreshers.  When you add the new perspective of improving your personal economy, I hope that these principles make it easier to accomplish.  

Timeless pieces:  Easy one!  T-shirts, turtlenecks, button down shirts and some pants and blue jeans won't go out of style before they wear out.  Buy styles that are clean-cut and versatile.  Stay away from something that screams HOT now because it will be cold later.  Even though almost everything cycles in and out, you can choose styles that will last you five years or more.

Quality over quantity:  How many times have I heard this?  It's easy if you are accustomed to buying at higher price points because those items are going to be better quality.  The key element I look for at any price point is the fabric. Banana Republic used to have top notch fabric, but now they are skimping with blends.  I have a sweater from 7 years ago that is 100% wool and looks like the day I bought it.  Most of their fabrics now will pill and look very used after the first season.  The exception is the men's department where they are still using wool, cotton, cashmere and silk.  The ladies get rayon, modal and other itchy substitutes.  You have to dig around the inside of the leg to find the fabric content.

Know thyself:  The more you focus on your own lifestyle, colors and fit for your body, the less fashion mistakes you will make and the more money you will save.  It makes shopping so much easier to know that you can't wear a certain item.  Crew neck tops look terrible on me.  

Take it back:  I have a rule that if I haven't worn something in two weeks, I take it back.  Maybe I love it, or it was a good deal but it doesn't matter because there is some reason I'm not wearing it.  It's better to have your money to work for you on another item.  Don't feel bad because there will be something else that steals your heart or is a good deal.  The only caveat here is end of season shopping.

Shop second hand stores:  Why not scavenge through a consignment shop, Goodwill or Ebay?  You never know what you might find. The way to be successful is to know brands and know good fabric.

Multitaskers:  This goes along with timeless pieces in your wardrobe.  There are items that you can use for many things.  Try to buy a solid cardigan that you can wear with many outfits instead of the one with a print or special color. It doesn't mean that it has to be black, but there may be a color that pops with many items in your wardrobe.  I bought a yellow bangle bracelet and see now that yellow goes will almost everything I own.  

Coordinating Colors:  Again, it bears repeating.  Try to coordinate your clothes around what looks good on you.  The smaller you want your wardrobe to be, the more all your clothes need to coordinate.  

Year round clothes:  I live in a climate that is warm most of the year, but even if you don't you can have a selection of items that go the distance through the year.  Some things obviously won't translate well and that's ok.  I'm thinking t-shirts, camis, and suits are some items that can be worn year round. Fabric here is again the key.  If you buy a linen or cotton suit, it has to be put up for the winter, even in Houston.  If you buy a tropical weight wool, garbardine or tri-acetate suit, you can wear it year round.  Doing so allows you to buy a better quality and pricier suit.  Ann Taylor and J. Crew are great for these investment pieces.  Steer clear of Express and The Limited for suits, in my opinion.  

Do you really need another black top?:  It seems that there are certain items that we are endlessly hunting.  I suppose it's the quest for the perfect one. I propose to you that you choose well, then be satisfied with the one or two that you have.  Some people like to have many black tops of different styles, but that is not what I'm talking about.  I'm talking about the same color, same function, same style but somehow you end up with too many in your closet.  When you are shopping, notice if you do this and tell yourself to step away from the black tops.

Extended Life:  Since we're talking about economy, stretching our dollars and our wardrobe has to happen.  I bought a winter coat in Venice two years ago from a shop that sells quite trendy items.  Since I don't wear my coat all that long in the year it really hasn't worn out.  However I'm always thinking that I'd like one more basic, or just different.  I still like my old coat though and every year I talk myself out of buying a new one.  I stop to think that this coat can get me through the winter just fine.  When the time comes for a new one, I'll have had plenty of time to think of what I want to invest in next.

Take care of what you have:  More common sense, but it is really something that I've learned to do in the last couple of years.  Catching stains early is critical in keeping clothes stain free.  I wash most of our clothes and iron them.  I've read that dry cleaning makes clothes wear out faster, besides the toxic chemicals that reside in them.  I handwash all my bras so they last.  

Stay the same size:  Oh, how I'm talking to myself.  I always say that my clothes tell me my weight limit because once they get tight I have to cut back eating.  Right now is that time and the jeans are quite tight.  I refuse to buy a bigger size because I happen to like my clothes.  How many of you have several sizes of clothes in your closet?  The French use their clothes as a form of diet regime too.  They call it the "zipper method".  If you can't zip up the pants, you have to zip up the mouth.  Drink water instead of wine for awhile, or cut back on bread and fried foods.

Stores would love us to buy into the belief that our wardrobe can be new and perfect every season, but for most of us it is a work in progress.  We are always buying, tweaking, and trying to perfect our look and our wardrobe.  I would love to be that person who knows they need certain items and they just replace it every year.  A lot of people are, but if you are like me and struggle to find your personal style among the changing trends, changing seasons and evolving lifestyle, then be patient with yourself.  It may not ever be perfect, but it will always get better and better.  Creativity is free and you'll be so much better off and feel better about yourself when you decide to stop buying with credit and accumulating debt for clothes or anything else.  

Sunday, October 05, 2008

How To Get Free Chanel Mascara

No strings attached!  A while ago I became an Allure Expert.  The rundown is that certain companies like Chanel will send you a new product to try either before they go on the market or as they are launching.  Your only obligation is to use it and give them feedback.  I try not to think about the human guinea pig perspective and say "Don't look a gift horse in the mouth."

All you have to do is sign up at Allure Experts.  It's free stuff and no coupon clipping.  

Naturalizer Friends & Family 30% Off

Today is the last day of Naturalizer Friends & Family.  This company makes great shoes that are not just for "old ladies"!!  Personally, I can't wear towering stilettos and am not interested in uncomfortable shoes. 

The code is FFJ28.  It says present the coupon at the store so if you need it, email me and I'll send it to you.  If you order online, you just use the code.

Friends & Family Exclusive Guest Pass.
30% OFF your entire purchase October 2 - 5, 2008
To receive the discount, print this coupon and present it at any participating Naturalizer store or use your promotion code (FFJ28) at
Coupon must be presented at time of purchase at any participating Naturalizer retail store or Offer is valid for 30% off any purchase. Not valid with any other coupon offers, previous purchases or towards the purchase of gift cards. Void if copied. Offer excludes the MBT footwear collection. Offer valid Thursday, October 2 through Sunday, October 5, 2008. On-line offer expires Sunday, October 5, 2008 at 11:59 pm CST. Promotional Code for Website purchases: FFJ28.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Double Duty Tank Top in Fall Colors

I was shopping at Anthropologie a couple of weeks ago and pulled a couple of tank tops to try on with a sweater.  I liked them because they are v-neck and it's difficult to find tanks in a v-neck.  I'm sure you know that v-necks are the most flattering neckline for a large bust.  Later when I was deciding which color, the salesgirl pointed out that they are reversible. One side is v-neck, the other side is scoop neck, which is great because v-neck doesn't go well with all my sweaters.

Finding a great t-shirt or tank top often feels like the impossible dream, which why I'm so thrilled to find the holy grail of tank tops!!  The colors are great and the fabric is a nice quality. It's also nice to be able to wear a regular bra with these because the straps are thick.  If you need some tanks, I highly recommend these. They are extra long which allows more versatility. The price is also very reasonable at $24.00 each.

If this doesn't suit your body type, they also have two other kinds of camis in a variety of colors.

It's hard for me to resist all these tanks when they are in such great colors.  The word "staple" just keeps ringing in my ears when I see them all laid out in candy like colors.  I think how they will stretch my wardrobe.  I reason that I can wear them year-round.  Aren't they really an investment?  I know I've seen them listed on must-have lists for every wardrobe.

All those things are true, but as a wise woman told me once, sometimes it's better to just pick one.  I know it hurts to think about it, but choosing one, maybe two at a time allows you to assimilate colors into your wardrobe.  Sometimes we buy things because we think they are a staple and then realize that they are not a staple for us.  

So when buying this or anything else, remember that it's okay to just buy one (or two).  I helped a friend clear out her closet and she had multiples of so many things.  She hadn't even worn them, but when she was shopping she rationalized that if she liked one she must get them in every color.  

I wanted to say this because it is so easy to get into a shopping frenzy when you are in the store. Everything looks so full of potential.  One of my goals is to keep my wardrobe as simple as possible.  I don't want a closet crammed with things I don't wear and I don't want to waste my money.  Be realistic about your coloring and choose your colors well.  When you do that, most of your clothes will flow together. 

Let me know if you try out this tank top.  I'm going to get the bronze.  

Thursday, October 02, 2008

I Hate Shooties Dot Com

And I hate booties too. I know they are all the rage right now but I find them so ugly. Even on a supermodel with mile long legs, they are still an abomination in my eyes. The proportion is just all wrong on the body.  When something like this comes in trend, it makes me happy that trends don't last that long.

What are shooties?

As defined by Piperlime:

The Shootie:
1) Half boot, half shoe.
2) Trend of the moment.
3) Best paired with skinny jeans, tights or pencil skirts.

Some examples for your perusal:

From Nordstrom:
And a couple more from Piperlime:

I am willing to concede that I am probably getting old and that's why I don't get it.  Maybe it's because anything best paired with skinny jeans isn't going to work for me.  These things are true, but mostly I just think they are hideous.  

On a more positive note, I am excited about all the full sized boots being offered in many varieties this season.  I don't wear heels much so I'm always searching for low heeled boots that don't resemble something orthopedic.  I went to Nordstrom last week and I know that there will be some new boots in my future.  The ones below are from Piperlime.

The perfect boots for me would be ones that you can wear with jeans or a dress.  I love to wear boots with a dress or skirt and tights, but it takes a pretty feminine boot to pull that off.  I think the second and the fourth look above would go with skirts/dresses or jeans/dress pants.  

Is it wrong that I really like these?  Just looking at them makes me want to wear fake eyelashes and a miniskirt.

And for some reason they make me think of this song.  

Is this the inspiration for the 80's aerobic videos?  "You've been lyin' when you should be truthin"  Hmmmm.

Since we are talking about boots, I have a pair that I couldn't get rid of, circa 1992.  They are purple suede and I have a feeling that they are on the horizon of back in fashion.  Will I be daring enough to pull them off?  I'm going to say WWPD?  What would Penelope do?  I think she would.  

What's your take?  Will you be doing the shootie or the bootie this season? I won't judge you.  I promise.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Is There a Coupon for 5 Pounds Off?

Over the last few months I have been buying my Sunday paper and cutting my coupons diligently. I want to save money as much as anyone and since I have tons of time and not tons of money, it was an untapped budgetary experiment. So I am here to report how coupon cutting worked for me.

There exists an entire blogging community of coupon junkies and money savers that helped me figure out how to get the most of little.  At first I thought that it was time consuming because I was new to all the double deal talking, but no, this coupon business is very time consuming. Not only does it take time to clip the coupons, sort them, organize them, pull out expired ones, etc., but I could easily spend an hour roaming the aisles trying to find what item matched my coupon. I found it a challenge at first and didn't even mind the strange stares as people maneuvered around my buggy, but I gradually lost patience.  After the first newspaper, then on and on, I had acquired so many coupons that I couldn't manage them well.  I realize there are coupon organization systems out there, but what can I say?  I just couldn't be bothered.

No matter the inconvenience of all that, the real test is did I save money?  I'm going to say yes and no on that count.  Yes, if you add up all the coupons I used, I did save money.  However, I would have not bought many of those items if I hadn't had a coupon, so that would be no.  At first I clipped all the coupons, even Depends and hair dye.  The thing is that I would read one of the blogs telling how they got items for free because they had the coupon, and I didn't want to miss out on the free stuff.  Never mind that I wasn't going to use it, I could give it away!

I really tried to buy things that weren't terrible for me, but I was often seduced by the Lucky Charms, Pop Tarts and yet another mediocre body wash.  The truth is that there is a reason for most of the coupons being high priced, heavily packaged, processed food.  The companies make the most money on these items and they want you hooked.  I can't remember the last time I had a Pop Tart and now I am strangely addicted to maple and brown sugar with it's crusty edges and sugary frosting.  In fact, I had one today-out of a vending machine, but I digress.  There are some companies like Cascadian Farm that offered some great coupons from their website, so they are not all bad.  

This leads me to the most disturbing effect of all during my coupon experiment.  I gained 5 pounds.  My eating patterns have been fairly fixed for a lot of years and this is the first time I've succumbed to the processed food like this.  I am not impressed.  Rice Krispy treats homemade are way better than the individually wrapped ones.  Yes I know that all Rice Krispy treats could be considered processed, but you get the point, right?  I didn't think I was overeating, but the basic changes in food can be attributed to the weight gain.  That's my story on that.

Using coupons created a sense of urgency to use them and that made me shop more.  I would look for "deals" from other blogs to see what store had the great coupon and store sale match-ups.  The deals may be at Target, Wal-Mart, CVS, Walgreens, and I would feel compelled to go there and see for myself.  At first, I was suckered in and ending up spending way more than I normally would have.  Previously and from now on, it's back to business as usual.  I will go once a week to Central Market with fill-ins to Wal-Mart or HEB.  Some things are just cheaper at Wal-Mart and just because I'm not gung ho clipping coupons, I still want to save money.  The bottom line is that I want to eat what I have learned over the years is good for me.  I stay away from processed, faux foods and like to cook from fresh ingredients.  That is a choice I made a long time ago and we decided it's better to save money by eating less.

One of my favorite things about clipping coupons is the makeup deals.  I was completely enchanted when I realized that when a store has a buy one get one free (BOGO), and you have a coupon BOGO, you get them both free.  Very cool.  Previously I wouldn't have used drugstore makeup but I have to say that I'm loving my Cover Girl foundation.    

My last note about coupons is the phenomenon of "stock-piling".  Being someone who doesn't like a lot of extra clutter, I found this notion intriguing and disturbing at the same time.  Maybe it's because we are only two in our house, but already we have enough body wash, razors and deodorant to last two years.  I had to just stop the madness and stop buying these products no matter what the deal.  I don't want all that stuff in my house! 

The verdict is that I will still use some coupons, but will no longer put all the effort and gaming that is involved in all-out couponing.  I'll miss those makeup coupons though.  And I will still do CVS because they have an internal savings system that doesn't require coupons for saving money.  Each family has to do what works for them and for now I think all coupons and Pop Tarts must be taken in moderation.

Our Trip to Rosemary Beach, Florida

I'm linking up again with  Erika ,  Andrea  and  Narci  for the Friday Favorites!  I love reading everyone's favorites too! ...